by Joan Quigley, RN, MSN, NP, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla
Twenty or 30 years ago, it was considered safe for babies to sleep on their stomachs. Parents held infants in their arms when they rode in the car, and put them down to sleep at night in their cribs.
Well, times have changed—and for many new grandparents, the new rules about childcare may be confusing. To help them navigate these changes, Scripps Memorial Hospital Community Health is offering a new class especially for grandparents. “Grandparenting Today” gives new grandparents an introduction to the role they will be playing in their grandchildren’s lives, and can help them adapt to the changes that have taken place since their own children were young.
Some of these changes apply even before the baby is born. Couples were not as educated as they are now; today, many take various classes in preparation for the birth. Ultrasounds were reserved for high-risk patients in the past, whereas today they are routine. It was unusual for fathers to be in the delivery room helping out during childbirth, much less recording the event on their digital cameras. (How many old movies show Dad nervously pacing in the hospital hallways, waiting for his baby to be born?)
Following delivery, newborns were taken to the nursery down the hall, because “rooming in” with their mothers was not a common practice. Today, all of these are quite customary, and the more grandparents understand about prenatal care and the modern labor and delivery process, the easier it will be to support their daughters or sons during the pregnancy and birth.
Other changes become evident as soon as the baby leaves the hospital. Grandparents who always held their children on their laps in the car, with or without seatbelts, may find the new car safety laws daunting. In California, children are required to ride in a federally approved baby car seat or child booster seat until they are at least six years old or weigh at least 60 pounds.
Even some of the most basic aspects of baby care have changed. Breastfeeding is more popular now than it was thirty years ago, and more parents are concerned with feeding “natural” or “organic” foods when their babies are ready to eat solid foods.
Sleeping can be a major issue. Years ago, it was considered safe to put babies to sleep on their stomachs, so that they would not choke if they spit up in their sleep. Today, stomach sleeping is considered dangerous. In fact, The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a division of the National Institutes of Health, has created an entire campaign devoted to spreading the word about putting babies to sleep on their backs.
According to the “Back to Sleep” campaign, babies who sleep on their stomachs have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). “Back to Sleep” applies not only to nighttime sleeping, but naps as well.
New grandparents also may be surprised to learn that in addition to sleeping on their backs, many babies are sleeping in the same bed as Mom. A number of young mothers prefer to have their babies sleep with them. This practice can make some grandparents uncomfortable, as they may believe that the baby is in danger of being smothered or injured should Mom roll over in her sleep.
Given all of these changes, it’s no surprise that conflicts may arise between grandparents who think their way is correct and parents who have learned otherwise.
This is where communication is key. “Grandparenting Today” offers tips for creating clear, positive communication between parents and grandparents, including suggestions about how and when to speak up and when to stay quiet. The class also serves as a “support group” for new grandparents, who share ideas and learn from one another.
Grandparents play an important and irreplaceable role in children’s lives. They are a link between the generations, passing on the culture and history of the family through stories, memories and photos. The more grandparents know about creating loving, nurturing and supportive relationships with their children and their children’s children, the stronger their bonds can be.
Joan Quigley RN, MSN, NP, is Lead Perinatal Educator with Scripps Community Health at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. For more information on grandparenting classes, please call 1-800-SCRIPPS.